One of the modern day seven wonders of the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal in India is a true sightseer’s paradise. Located in the Mughal gardens in the Taj Ganj district of Agra in northern India, its stunning white marble exterior and intricately carved details make it one of the most impressive feats of architecture in the entire world. Despite being built during the 17th century, it remains in pristine condition today, and it is an iconic example of the exquisite craftsmanship of the Mughal Empire. We take a scan through some of the site’s most popular attractions along with some key facts about the building and its surroundings so you can plan ahead for your visit.
The Taj Mahal Has Three Different Entry Gates
There are two gates that lead to the Taj Mahal and its surrounding gardens, the eastern gate, southern gate and western gate. Before visiting it is worth planning ahead which gate you would like to enter by. The eastern gate is near several hotels, making it a convenient entrance if you are staying nearby, however it is farther away from the Taj Mahal’s building complex. The western gate is the main entrance but it is by far the busiest, attracting both locals and large busloads of tourists, so queues can be long. However, it is situated near to the main site, making it more convenient for large groups travelling by bus or car. Meanwhile the south gate is the quietest entrance of the three, and it is set up for pedestrians, but it is currently closed for entry at the time of writing due to security concerns.
The Mausoleum Is Covered with Carving and Calligraphy
The white mausoleum in the center of the Taj Mahal grounds is adorned with a series of intricate patterned stone carvings and elements of calligraphy that reveal just how highly skilled the people of the Mughal Empire really were. The carved latticework served both a decorative and a practical purpose, allowing for ventilation inside the building during the warmest times of year. Meanwhile the building’s calligraphy, written in the ‘thuluth’ script style, mostly recites verses from the holy book of Quran related to themes of judgement and rewards that await the most faithful and devout Muslims.
There Are Several Buildings on Site
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While the stunning white Mausoleum is undoubtedly the star attraction of the Taj Mahal complex, there are also a series of further structures and features designed to complement it. The red sandstone mosque stands on the western side of the mausoleum. It was built according to Muslim law, which required any mausoleum to be accompanied by a mosque for religious worship. Situated on the grounds of the Taj Mahal there is also a guesthouse, also known as the ‘rest house’, set on the eastern side of the Taj.
It was designed as a replica of the mosque, mirroring the same elements of balance, symmetry and harmony that adorn the entire site, however, it was never actually used as a working mosque as it doesn’t feature a Mihrab for Muslim prayer, or a Minbar, from where the priest would deliver his sermon. The site also houses a small museum near the western entrance, which was built between 1899 and 1905, and modernized in 1982. There are also extensive grounds designed to complement the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal Is Closed on Fridays
The site is closed to general visitors on Fridays, to allow local Muslims to offer prayers at the mosque. This is the only day of the week that Muslims can carry out religious practice on site, a decision which has caused controversy amongst the Muslim communities of India. However, the Supreme Court of India has argued the decision was made in order to preserve the posterity of the historical site.